Monday, August 31, 2015

Raleigh Recap, In Words and Links

This blog became poignant in the retelling. Rebekah took so many photos and videos, Sarah and I backed off, figuring we could share. Last night, while attempting to upload said videos and photos, Rebekah's phone wiped her SD card clean.

Yes, that's right. Most of our pictorial summary of our trip is permanently gone. And now, the recap.

We had just claimed baggage at Raleigh-Durham International Airport (, and I had just swallowed my anitbiotic when Sarah and Lucas appeared, with Lucas running excitedly up to greet us.

BTW, this is what caused the antibiotic reaction: Apparently, even topical alcohol (in lotions, slathered over the body). I stopped using such topical products when I started the drug, but seeing that I had already applied them that day...well, not a fun reaction. But we fixed it.

After lunch at Papa's Pizza & Subs ( and a walk with Lucas to buy some much-needed coffee at the nearby by Sola Coffee Café  ( and bring it back to restaurant, we went grocery shopping, and then past her former house on Waterbury Lane so I could envision it, and then back to Sarah's for a tour of her beautiful manufactured and very open house in the woods.

BTW, Sola has fantastic atmosphere, and it's one of my to-go places when I return to Raleigh. Another BTW: Each and every time we stopped somwhere for coffee for me (after the first day, it was always Starbucks because it was always nearby whereever we were at), Lucas tried conning the counter person out of an iced coffee. It became our predictable ritual.

During dinner preparations, I played ping-pong with Lucas. After dinner, Lucas, Sarah, Rebekah, and I played Chutes and Ladders, the first time I had played Chutes and Ladders with the girls in a VERY long time. ;)

On Saturday, we went Good Will hopping to two stores (and "hiding" stuff on the racks at closing time for the next day), stopping to have lunch at Subway.

More on the fun of Good Will hopping with Sarah and Rebekah (and only with Sarah and Rebekah) on a later post.

Later that evening, we took a walk down the Neuse River Trail ( behind her house, with Lucas riding his bike, stopping at Poole Road to turn around because it was getting dark. Sarah promised we would go farther next time. Sarah said it was supposed to the longest connecting trail either in the state or in all fifty states, when it's finished.

On Sunday, we attended All Saints Antiochean Orthodox Church (
 and back to Good Will to try on the stuff we hid the previous day. Then we went to Triangle Town Center
( checked out items we could not get at Good Will, and then decided Wal-Mart had the better deal (although we did buy a box of Cinnabons to take home. At Wal-Mart, Lucas gave me a ride on a shopping cart, and we also bought his school supplies.

On Monday, we went to the Atlantic Ocean:  Johnnie Mercer Pier Pier at Wrightsville Beach ( Having been married to two husbands that are afraid of water, I have  not been in a swimming pool or any body of water since my teens, so this part was extremely important to Sarah, as I love water very, very much.

BUT, I am allergic to the UVA rays in sun, and this particular antibiotic increased sun sensitivity (naturally). So I happily lay under the awning, read Bryony, and listened to the waves, while everyone else frolicked in the water. At five o'clock, I reslathered the sunscreen (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide blocks UVA) and headed to the water.

The first wave washed over me when Sarah yelled out, "Something bit me!" I thought she was joking, but that Rebekah and then several people around us echoed that. We collected Lucas, scampered from the water, and surmised the girls had been stung by jellyfish. Sarah produced a credit card, scraped their legs to remove the stinger, and broke camp quickly, with the help from one very kind man.

Off we went to Medac quick care ( for treatment and vinegar soaks, with me reassuring Lucas that his mother wasn't going to die, and Lucas trying to sell Bryony to the staff. I felt badly that the girls had been stung; Sarah felt badly that I didn't have time in the water.

Sidebar: We learned at quick care that the staff treat several jellyfish stings a day (one woman before us had run in screaming), and that the tide brings them in around five o'clock (figures). We had thumped ourselves on the head for not deciding to pack overnight bags, and I had already envisioned myself getting up early in the morning, before everyone was awake, for a nice dip in the ocean before the sun's rays could hurt me. Well, we learned at quick care that also would have been a bad idea. The sharks are out until nine a.m.

Then it was home for reading (me) and TV and vinegar soaks for the girls.

On Tuesday, we went to the Buffalo Road Aquatic Center ( We were supposed to attend Lucas' family-style Taekwondo class later that night, but after playing on the three-story water slide, in the vortex, chasing each other in the lazy river, and water basketball, Lucas really needed some down time, so had a mellow evening.

On Wednesday, after watching Dirty Dancing (which I had never seen), all the while musing on the fact that I was watching a favorite movie of both my daughters, we went to Waffle House (where Lucas bought me a Waffle House coffee) and then to return Lucas' Nintendo DS at Toys R Us.

While there, Lucas really, really, really wanted the new Sonic Colors game. He 'bout fell over when I offered to buy it for him by saying, "Merry Christmas." Except for mice creams (, and our annual St. Nicholas drawing, I have never bought him a present.

Next on the agenda was bowling at Buffalo Lanes North, where Lucas celebrated his eighth birthday (as we were leaving, Sarah's former dance teacher Mary Ann Corcoran called, apologizing that she didn't call in time for my storydeadline. I interviewed her that night, added her to the story (, and she and Sarah spent some time catching up), and Goodberry's Frozen Custard.

At Goodberry's Lucas and I went searching the strip mall parking lot for loose change to throw into the wishing well. We found none, Lucas got bored, so Sarah supplied the change, and we made wishes. We walked off the ice cream by walking down to Neuse River Trail to Anderson Point Park (, which is beautifully open, landscaped, and has this really quaint retreat house for community events and for rent.

On Thursday, the original plan was roller skating. However, Lucas seemed like he needed a quiet day. So
took a ride to see the Sarah's first Raleigh home on Upchurch Subdivision on Jordan Road. We parked in a former neighbor's driveway (with permission), walked to the woods (where there are old graves from the Hobby family from the nineteenth century) behind her old house and then over to the playground, where there was a boy playing, the first time ever, Sarah said.

Lucas invited the boy to come with us to Lake Benson Park in Garner (, where we were gong to have lunch. The boy's mother, just a couple years younger than I and from the Ukraine, was wary, as she did not know us, but that was not the case an hour later. We talked, friended each other on Facebook, and left with her promising Sarah to send an invitatino to her son's birthday party, which would be held the first part of September.

Amongst all this, I also called Joliet Regional Airport for one last source to this story (, as everyone I needed to contact was on vacation.

We then went to Lake Benson Park, had a picnic lunch in the pavilion, and then walked by the lake, where Lucas showed off his proficiency at skipping rocks. We walked through the woods, checked out the turtles, and then went to Pullen Park, founded in 1887 ( and then rode a carousel built in 1912.

We rode the carousel, invited three boys playing at the park to ride then train with us, and then went to Lucas' school to meet his teacher. That night, after filing the story, te girls and I went to Rum Runners (, the little piano bar that Sarah loves and where she spent at least one of her birthdays.

The girls, heads together, sent up requests. The guys' styles reminded me of Elton John's Get Back, Honky Cat, which the younger pianist sent to the older one, as he was unfamiliar with it. Old people's music? I guess.

A stripper from the bar next door thought Sarah and I were twins...but she and I, Rebekah and I, and she and Rebekah heard that everywhere we went. Too funny!

Afterwards, we had a later dinner at Woody's (, which served the tenderest chicken strips anywhere. I am such a kid!

On Friday, Sarah's husband took part of the day off so we could go to Falls Lake in Wake Forest and Durham ( We drifted past the place they camp, swam, ate lunch, zipped around, and went tubing, my first time and tons of fun. Next year, Sarah said it will be wakeboarding. Can't wait!

The afternoon ended earlier than we would have liked because Sarah had to be at Lucas' school before four o'clock in order to sign him up for before-school care. We talked to his teacher again, and then Sarah and I reviewed her wish list. Sarah took some items, and I pulled "stickers."

Then we cleaned up and headed over to The Pit Authentic BBQ ( for a rib and brisket dinner...and some outstanding collard greens! This was the ride where Lucas and I sat in the back seat watching the video to one of his favorite songs (

Sometime I ate caused me to flush and my heart to race; we think it was the jalapenos in appetizer cornbread, a normal reaction, except mine was extreme and put the only damper on the entire week.

However,that was nothing to the seizure the man at the next table had to us. The paramedics were called, poor man, although he appeared to be stable when they left. I hope everything turned out okay.

Back at the house, Sarah and Co. opened up their St. Nicholas gifts that had gone through a shipping mishap. Too keyed up to sleep that night, we left the house at five-thirty the next morning for the return flight home. I was extremely sorry to leave so soon, but the realization of something struck me in those wee hours of no sleepand filled me with elation.

I'll explain Wednesday...along with why I pulled "stickers."

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Intro to the Raleigh Recap

The last time I took any significant time off from anything was 1995, and that was the first time since the 1970s when I lived under my parents' roof.

We spent three days in Door County and a week at Round Pond (my uncle's sportsman club) in the Catskills. At the time, I was a seven-day a week, full-time homeschooling mom doing everything by myself except bringing home the bacon (and a large portion of that bacon never made it to the household).

In 1998, I decided I could do a better job of bringing home that bacon, too. So I began a single mom, by choice, for the first time. My kids were 15, 13, 12, 7, 4, and 2, the youngest not potty-trained and barely verbal.

Yes, I did this by choice. It was a good choice, and there isn't one of my kids who would say otherwise.

I worked seven days a week. I delivered newspapers, wrote for newspapers, sold newspapers, and baby sat, all those activities every day, in the same day. Something had to give, and two things went: homeschooling and sleep. Eventually, as I accumulated routes and and story assignments, so did the selling and the babysitting.

In 2000, I married my children's stepfather, and we built a wonderful life in Channahon, a life that included working seven days a week, returning to homeschooling, being active on our church board, running the church's religious education program (and teaching two of its classes), and founding and running a youth group.

My husband and I had a great partnership until he could no longer do the partnership. We lost our home (which his parents had built before he was born), altered the relationship, and built a new life together in a different direction. And, thus, I once again became a single parent, by my choice again, to three young adults trying to get through college.

The kids, BTW, have all become outstanding adults. Just had to get that in there.

Delivering newspapers stopped in January 2013 when my husband left, and, while the freelance assignments came thick and fast, the money did not. At the end of 2013, I decided that, after the first of the year, I would start applying anywhere that paid, and that would not be writing.

Lo and to my surprise, I became an employee in January 15, 2014, the first time I had been an employee since I was 19, and the first fulltime position ever. I had five vacation days to use last year, but since I could not afford to go anywhere, I took them sparingly here and there and stressed out over the work that was piling up during each day off. I decided I dreaded and hated vacation days, so you can imagine my reaction when I learned I had TEN vacation days that I had to use.

Sigh, through clenched teeth.

As my familyi is still in recovery mode, I can't afford a car, and I can't afford to travel. I took back the promise I made to Sarah last year that THIS YEAR I would finally come to Raleigh, where her family relocated for employment reasons six years ago. But she and Rebekah put their heads together and planned the vacation, including the booking of plane tickets and payment of those tickets.

Now, I'd already taken a "practice" trip with a little writer's retreat in June. I was caught up and slightly ahead before I left, so the return was relatively painless. I was ready to plot and plan the big league vacation.

I went on mega-write that summer and stockpiled work for my absence and my return, thus ensuring little could go wrong. Yes! I was on top of it. :)

Then, in that last week, I made two un expected doctor trips, which cut into my work time and slowed my warp speed (because the health incident made me feel "off").

Trip number two meant an antibiotic that produced a really horrible reaction. We figured out the cause, skipped the dose the morning I left to keep me feeling well (although the kids assured me if something went horrible wrong, they would land the play, yeah, and good-bye vacation), and resumed once the plane landed, as Sarah is more than capable of handling medical stuff. But since we figured out the cause, the side effects gradually dispersed until they disappeared altogether, and I simply took the antibiotic.

And then, it really happened. I had a great vacation and a (fairly) starightforward return to work. Okay, Rebekah came back sick with a bad virus, which spread through the house, but we're getting through that, too.

So tomorrow, I'll share the details of that wonderful trip, but I have to tell ya. As a former independent contractor, I found it hard to wrap my head around the whole "paid vacation" concept. When one is paid by the piece, work is a simple cause and effect. I work, I get paid. I don't work, I don't get paid. If you want a day off (which, except for surgery, I just did not do), better get the work done first.

To think a company would actually give an employee paid time off is...well...too awesome for words, a blessing I cannot take for granted.

I. Am. So. Thankful.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Catching Up on Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Aug. 16 through Aug. 28

All righty then. Here's what ran in The Herald-News the week I was in Raleigh and the first week of my return.

Way below are the cover stories. Directly below are links to the feature briefs and event calendars.

Health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars can be found at the link below.

Also at the link are the community feature briefs I write/edit (no byline). The fourth calendar, Gotta Do It, runs each Sunday and often stays on the home page through the week.

Morris woman creates personalized greetings from original poetry and photographs

This 90-year-old woman also leads a Bible study. She reads one of her poems in the video extra, too.

An Extraordinary Life: Joliet woman took love of sport to recognize the accomplishments of others

Mary Jane Sporar loved bowling. Her game wasn't spectacular, but her lauding of others was.

Joliet counselors use art to help people cope
By Jeanne Millsap

Art therapy is not playing with crayons and scissors. It's a method that counselors may use to facilitate healing.

Lemont church makes quilts for Lutheran World Relief

It's a 40-year ministry of creating comfort from scraps, with some of the volunteers well into their 90s. With video extra.

Comedian Brian Regan to perform at Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet

I scanned the internet for previous articles on this clean funny man so as not to reproduce what was previously written. I didn't find his back story, so here it is...and Mr. Regan was kind enough to share it.

Manhattan nonagenarian has been flying 74 years

Read why Gene Gear is phenomenal in the air and hear his story of how a pheasant nearly took him down in the video extra.

An Extraordinary Life: Joliet woman exemplified Biblical commands

Talk about one's right hand not meeting the left! Barbara Dolph had so many service projects that the people who knew her didn't know about all of them.

Nonprofit remodels home of Joliet resident with MS
By Allison Selk

Part of battling a disabling illness is watching the chores pile up. See how one group transformed a home to ease the burden on the entire family.

Mokena pastor shares his journey from atheist to Christian

"And a little child shall lead them" is an apt verse for this man. Read about Robert Morlan's conversion experience and hear an excerpt from his book in the video extra.

Orland Park/Will County chapter of youth theater puts glorifying God first
By Allison Selk

A really nice story about an organization that does a seamless job of melding theater art with spiritual development.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: The Most Convenient Kitchen Utensils

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Most Convenient Kitchen Utensils...

...according to Miss Beecher's domestic receiptbook: designed as a supplement to her Treatise on domestic economy.

Certainly, Simons Mansion boasted no microwaves or slow cookers. So, in addition to the ice box, what other items might Melissa have seen inside the kitchen? Note: The comments in parentheses are mine.

1) Tin Baker or Reflector: for baking breads, cakes apples, as well as an oven (I had to read this twice. Who would bake an oven?)

2) Footman: made with brass or sheet iron to heat irons.

3: Balances: for weighing cakes (What else?).

4) Dustpan: so one doesn't have to sweep the crumbs across the carpet (Obviously invented by someone whose kids did the sweeping. We have two dustpans, but I'm always finding the bulk of kitchen debris underneath the garbage can).

5) Saw Knife: a saw on one side and a knife on the other. Useful for cutting meats.

6) Lemon Squeezer

7) Case for Lamplighters: to receive the remnants of extinguished matches.

8) Meat Mallet

9) Egg Beater

10: Apple Corer: In 1860, this cost only a dime.

11) Gridiron Scraper

12) Rolling Pin

13: Fish Kettle

14) Preserving Kettle With a Cover: a cover best preserves the flavor of the fruit.

15) Preserving Kettle Without a Cover: shallow, so as not to crowd the fruit.The best are copper or bell metal. Porcelain ones are apt to crack.

16) Cast-iron Sauce-pan with Lid: (I only cook with cast iron. I'm still using a set that cost $28 in 1982 when my oldest son was born).

17) Tin Sauce-pan

18) Copper Sauce-pan. Every household needs at least four different sizes of saucpans. The copper ones are best and most durable. The iron lined with tin are next best. The tin are the poorest.

9) Trivet: for heating articles over coals without burning. Three or four of different sizes are needed with an open fire. Food cooked for the sick demands them.

20) Tin Bonnet: very useful to keep articles warm, to roast apples, and to warm plates.

21: A brush made of bristles twisted into wire to clean bottles.

22) Tin Safe: To preserve food in hot weather and to protect it also from mice.

23) Refrigerators: to keep meat, milk, butter, and cream during hot weather. Instructions are provided for making an inexpensive one. (Something to remember next time I need to replace a refrigerator).

A note from Miss Beecher's domestic receiptbook: designed as a supplment to her Treatise ondomestic economy: "A housekeeper who choses to do without some of these conveniences, and spend the money saved in parlor adornments, has a right to do so, and others a the right to think she in this shows herself deficient in good sense."


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Lucas and the Pop Tarts

So a vacation recap will have to wait for the weekend (when I'm the editor-in-call, too). This week is just too full for Sarah and I to connect to compare names-of-places notes.

Besides catching up at work, we celebrated Joshua's 30th birthday (which was Sunday, but he had to work) last night, which turned into a late night, which turned into a night of "Crap, I have Rebekah's sore throat."


When I was a very little girl, one of my most favorite places to be was my Grandma Jecmen's house on South Parnell in Chicago, a large bunglalow altered to house two related families separately. Her kitchen was a former porch that my grandfather coverted; her bathroom was a former closet.

Although happy memories of time spent with her galore abound, from her Solo prize-winning poppyseed coffeecake that I have never tasted since because my grandfather took his recipe to the grave with him, her pork tenderloins, and the hissing of the percolator at 3:30 a.m. while I sat and peered into the dark night while she prepared breakfast for my Grandpa Jecmen, the one that popped up in Raleigh was frosted Grape Pop Tarts.

You see, when we cut through the alley and walked to Jewel, she would buy me things I couldn't have at home, like Pepsi in a bottle (which I could drink straight from the bottle, not poured over ice cubes into a plastic cup) and peanut butter that I could eat cold, from the refrigerator with a spoon, and frosted Grape Pop Tarts.

One morning, perhaps it was a weekend morning, for my grandfather was not at work, and my mother was at the house (which was rare), my grandmother slept in, and I was served up a bowl of Product 19 with warm milk for breakfast.

It was totally gross, and I was getting in trouble for not eating it, while my grandfather and mother talked abotu stupid stuff. I dawdled, waiting for my grandmother. Sure enough, when she entered the kitchen, she dumped the cereal and prepared two Grape Pop Tarts.

Sidebar: although long discontinued, a special edition was brought back this past year, a box of which Rebekah and Daniel brought home for me.

So we're in Wal-Mart picking up a few groceries, and Lucas wants to buy a box of Pop Tarts in one of two new flavors. Sarah quickly denied the request and kept shopping. But I told Lucas the story of my grandmother and assured him that I was on his side, and off we went to check out the Pop Tarts.

Now here's the thing. Because I have food allergies, and because a couple of the ingredients in the new flavors of Pop Tarts were unknown to me, I wasn't keen to try them, but I did not want to miss out on having Pop Tarts, which I never buy.

There was no way Lucas was eating Pop Tarts without me getting some, too.

So I showed him the "safe" brands: strawberry and blueberry (plain and frosted) and, of course, Grape Frosted.

Lucas, with the stubborness of an 8-year-old boy that always knows what he wants (although he will tell you he's a 9-year-old teenager), wanted one of the two NEW flavors. By now, Sarah had found us, saw what I was doing, and stressed that the Grape ones were "special" -- and pointed out where it said so on the box.

That didn't convince Lucas. Not even close.

So Sarah made this deal: if Lucas chose a variety I could eat, NEXT TIME, he could get the ones he wanted, a huge deal because Sarah, a recent health-conscious vegan, does not serve up Pop Tarts to Lucas, for breakfast or otherwise.

Lucas debated. He wheedled. He considered.

He did NOT want anything I wanted.

Sarah's reaction: Well, okay then,. Let's go home, SANS Pop Tarts.

No, wait!

Lucas was torn. For twenty minutes, he was torn.

Well, how about Fudge Pop Tarts?

Now, I wouldn't budge either. Fudge Pop Tarts? Gross!

Sarah reiterated her bargain. Lucas wrestled with himself. He had me re-read the ingredients. Nope!

Well, how about Cinnamon Swirl Pop Tarts?

This time, I considered. Lucas suggested it because we had all splurged on CinnaBuns earlier in the week. The only time I'd had a CinnaBun was years ago, when Sarah was in high school. She loved them and split one with me at the mall. It was a delicious memory, so we indulged again.

Lucas brandished a box of Cinnamon Swirl for me to read the ingredients. Totally safe.

I conceded.

Off he went to check-out, proudly holding his box of Cinnamon Swirl Pop Tarts, happy and confident in the knowledge that NEXT TIME, he would get his first choice. Sarah is awesome; she will uphold her end of the deal.

So why is this significant to me?

Lucas and I now share a bond from my past.

Lucas waged war between his primal and higher self, with the higher self prevailing.

He learned concession and delayed gratification.

He saw how compromise on two sides can lead to resolution.

Neither of us left with first choice. But we both left with something we could enjoy together.

And when we had Pop Tarts for dessert that night, it was a sweet treat on so many levels.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Pause and a Return

I just returned from my first vacation in 20 years, actually the first real pause in my work life (except for surgery) in 20 years.

I hadn't intended not to post on social media or to blog, but the week naturally evolved into it, so I let it be.

I had two goals for this vacation: to go with the flow and to read Bryony, Visage, and Staked! seamlessly, one after the other, sometime I had never, ever done.

I accomplished both.

When Sarah and I both have a moment, I'll double-check with her the names of the places we visited and recap the things that we did. It was a week of adventure (my definition of "adventure"), fun and memorable experiences, the making of new friends and the strengthening of solid relationships, an underscoring of beliefs, and the start of fresh directions.

It was a quite a lot to pack into nine days.

Although we didn't get to do everything on the "the list," Sarah and I are compiling a new list of all the things we want to do next time. In the meantime, everyone else is moving in similar and opposite directions today: we are all - from my 8-year-old grandson Lucas and to my college kids - going back to work and/or school.

Once we arrived home on Saturday, Rebekah realized she was sick. Killer week this week for her, starting with a long work and school day. Please send up some "get well soon" wishes for her.

Updates to follow. Stay tuned! :)

Friday, August 14, 2015

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Aug. 9 through Aug. 15

Off to catch a plane!

To catch a glimpse of the fun I plan to have, visit www.facebook.come/bryonyseries.

(If I remember to post, that is).

You can check out the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at the link below.

Also at the link are the community feature briefs I write/edit (no byline). The fourth calendar, Gotta Do It, runs each Sunday and often stays on the home page through the week.

Below, the stories:

Manhattan veteran shares stories of his service in Viet Nam
By Dawn Aulet

For one man's experience, read the story - and buy is book at

An Extraordinary Life: Joliet woman had passion for social justice

From lobbying to distributing backpacks to organizations to moving her children to a diverse school, this woman lived what she believed.

Pets of the Week

People with oral and head and neck cancers find support at Morris Hospital
By Jeanne Millsap

Minooka pastor creates a variety of art pieces in his spare time

Pieces, may I add, that Sen. Sue Rezin found so exquisite, she bought two - one for home and one for office.

Country singer/songwriter Keith Anderson to perform in Frankfort

Never heard of him? Well, Garth Books. has.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: The First Post Ever

Welcome to the Bryony Series Blog by Denise M. Baran-Unland

I love stories, and my entire life has revolved around that love.

An asthmatic childhood provided long, happy hours curled up with either a book or a pen and notebook. Doll play with my sister (and we had many dolls) consisted of layered characters and complicated storylines that occupied us for days. I composed when riding my bike. I mentally added "he said" or "she said" when people spoke to me. My fifth and sixth grade English teacher created themed, people-centered bulletin boards from magazine clippings, and I wrote short stories from those clippings. I write for a living. I write for fun.

The BryonySeries blog reflects that fun.

Whether you are curious about the Bryony book(s) or simply enjoy reading and/or writing, you will find the genesis of and the research behind the story, publication updates, writing ramblings, information on the Bryony fundraising cookbook, writing and publication experiences of other authors, bits of inspiration and links to my favorite stories.

You will also meet the real Ed Calkins, aka, the Steward of Tara. He is one of Bryony's minor characters and Ireland's first official vampire. This blog will also feature variety of guest experts, authors, readers and, perhaps, a surprise or two.

Google my byline to read published feature stories or

Mostly, enjoy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Matter of Art

I'm seriously considering dropping the chapter heading illustrations in Before the Blood.

It's not that I don't like them, but sixty-two pieces is A LOT of work to ask someone to produce for free.

Over the past year, I've had a couple of volunteers and even sent sample chapters out, but no one picture has come back, and I'm not surprised. People are busy, and to create this much art for a low-key project,well, it's selfish of me to even consider it.

Now the book is not quite halfway written, so I don't expect to need the art for another eighteen months or so. But let me repeat: its SIXTY-TWO pieces. Chapter art is a luxury I may have to forsake this time.

Or I'd better learn to draw, fast.

On the other hand, I've seen some cover prototypes that look extremely promising.

Which means I'd better produce a book worthy of that art.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

One Way I Broke Writer's Block

I simply started writing.


I tried this during one of Kellen's chapters in Before the Blood. Here I was, a free weekend and the words and ideas weren't coming. So I just put him in a barn and started writing. I just made him do stuff and say stuff. Some of it didn't work, but most of it did.

Try it.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Short and Sweet This Week... I stock-pile stories for The Herald-News and prepare to spend some time in North Carolina with Rebekah, Sarah Stegall and her family.

Well, stockpiling storkies, anyway. Rebekah is off work this week and is assuming the role of the 1940's housewife while sleep, walk, and write. Rebekah and Sarah are the event planners; Rebekah is playing personal assistant, making sure I'm packed, etc; and Sarah will play tour guide when we get there. I'll be playing gracious guest, enjoying my family without work interruptions (a first!) and writing fiction in (any) down time.

Oh, yeah, and i'll be definitely trying out that tankini!

Have a fantastic week everyone!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Molasses Candy

Always wanted to try this, ever since I read Louis May Alcott's An Old-Fashioned Girl when I was nine. Saleratus, by the way, is sodium bicarbonate: baking soda

 Melissa, as Bryony, had a close relationship with the housemaid’s little daughter, Anna, much to John’s chagrin. They shared spiced hot chocolate at bedtime, and Melissa looked the other way when Anna sneaked candied orange peels.

 Of course, once John was gone, the fun began in earnest. Melissa would hijack the kitchen to make molasses candy with Anna or share an entire boiled fruit pudding with the little girl for supper.

Molasses Candy

1 quart molasses
1 teaspoon saleratus, dissolved in a little warm water

Boil molasses until a small amount, when dropped into cold water, becomes crisp. Add saleratus and beat well. Pour into a buttered pan. Let cool 5 minutes, butter fingers, and pull until tan in color. Cut into sticks.

From "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles From 'Bryony'"

All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Twenty Questions with Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara

When I first started the BryonySeries blog in 2011, I posted this Q&A with the real Ed Calkins in several installments. We did this interview months before the release of the first book, and it has never again been published.

Now for the first time, in living black and purple, is the entire interview with the man that ficionalized himself and allowed me to fictionalize him further for the series.

Just to clarify: Ed Calkins is a real person. He really lives somewhere Chicago-ish and was a supervisor for one of the agents when The Herald-News circulation passed from The Sun Times to the Chicago Tribune. I reported to Ed for my Marycrest route.

Having missed his Ed Calkins parade several years in a row, I offered, as consolation, a one-page monthly newsletter for his imaginary world or a spot in my series as a vampire. His response was, "Immortality, of course."

My attorney drew up the necessary paperwork for Ed to sign off himself. Seriously.

No Ed, is not insane, but wonderfully creative. If you want to know Ed, read the novels, for I dutifully scrawled on brown paper wrapping snatches of conversation overheard in passing at the distribution center while Ed handed out papers or in longer conversations by phone to weave in real dialogue with the imaginary dialogue and overall character arc.

I also spent much time with him, getting to know his "ruthless dictator" persona, as to accurately portray it. In a wonderful and truly humbling act of trust, Ed did not want to read any drafts; rather, he wanted the experience of his fictional self however I chose to write it, a very literary and legally-bound, "Do with me as you will."

It was marvelously empowering.

PS: I did such a good writerly job with Ed that one day, after Timothy had been out of the distribution center for a year attending Joliet Junior College and working at the Renaissance Center, he offered to help us roll papers one night and ran into Ed.

Ed said something to the effect of, "Wow, I haven't see you in a long time." Timothy blinked, yes, literally blinked, in surprise, for he had been reading drafts of Staked! as I had chaptered it off and felt as if he'd seen Ed every day.

Any blog post on this series attributed to Ed was really written by Ed. Just so you know.

And now, the interview:

        1)      Who is the ruthless dictator?

“My son was doing a lot of role playing games, and he was trying to come up with a bard and give him magical powers. I told him there was no need coming up with magical items, because bards are already too powerful, providing they’re not trying to seek notoriety for themselves. Ruthless dictators are not afraid to die. They’re just afraid of how they’ll be remembered. It’s not effective to compose a song or a limerick or an epic poem glorifying yourself. You’ve got to have other people saying it about you. Why not cut the military in half and invent some really good limericks? You can really insult someone into submission.”

2)      Why did you invent him?

“I was bullied as a boy, so it came from the way I would get back at bullies. I would think something negative about them, because verbalizing it wouldn’t go well. In my mind, I called it even. The ruthless dictator really started when I got a ticket running a stop sign when I was delivering newspapers on a really snowy day. If I had stopped, I would never have gotten going again. I really thought the ticket was unfair. As revenge, I picked ten people out f the phone book and thought bad things about them. My wife thought that was pretty corny. Later, I took over the entire town. I didn’t have to conquer a nation. It just had to be a place, at least metaphorically. It had to have its own identity.”

3)      What was your reaction when asked to become part of a vampire novel?

“I was nervous at revealing my ignorance about vampires. I didn’t know a lot about it. I worked quickly to remedy it.”

4)      Why did you accept?

“Immortality, of course. I can’t think about myself in everything. I have to think about 1,000 years from now, and if there’s going to be a three-day holiday in my name or not. There’s a side of me that thinks this could be goofy enough to think this could actually happen.”

5)      Weren’t you afraid of how you might be portrayed?

“No, and a lot of that comes from my survival mechanism as a kid. I learned to play along with the bullies rather than fight them. Part of my comedic outreach is self-deprecating, so it didn’t really seem that anything negative could hurt me. The ruthless dictator would say, ‘Look, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.’ King Midas is much better off than King Midas the Second, even though he was portrayed in a bad light, because nobody remembers King Midas the Second.”

6)      What if fans expect the real Ed Calkins to be similar to the fictional Ed Calkins?

“He is like him. There’s just that side of him. He’s significant in an offbeat way, enough to where he can claim the stewardship of Tara without blushing.”

7)      The Irish have no solid vampire legends. How do you feel about being the first, real Irish vampire?

“I think other people will make more of that than I will. Being known as the Steward of Tara is more of a crowing achievement in my mind.”

8)      Where did your love of Irish lore and history begin?

“It started with my love of history. Then I looked into mythology, and I used to tell my son a lot of tales and legends. When he reached high school and heard the same thing, my credibility rose in his eyes. One thing I had told him that wasn’t really true is that Ireland was always a backwash of European history, unless your interest is war. Then, it is probably true. There were many Irish warriors. It’s just they tended to be fodder; they were never fighting for Ireland. Ireland is probably the only place where you get a sense of what pre-Christianity was about, so if you want to know Ireland, just study its myth. Even before I was really into being Irish, I had a disdain for the Roman Empire, which, I think, gave me a bias toward the Irish. In all honesty, I’m American, but my heritage is Irish. It only takes going to Ireland to know that.”

9)      How did you research your Irish heritage?

“I’ve read a lot of books. Also, as a college freshman, I got put into an Irish literature course, which I wasn’t very interested in it at the time. I’m not one of those people who have forgotten much of what they learned in college. So it stayed with all these years in a recessive way. The problem is that I’m very bad with names. The proper study of Irish mythology involves heroes, kings, and saints, in that order. They are alive today through the last names. I just don’t know who these people are.”

      10)   When did you begin writing?

“I started with poetry. In the eighth grade I wrote poem that resonated a little bit.        So, throughout high school, I wrote poetry. I was an editor of the literary magazine and the editor in chief the last year. Something bizarre about me is that I can’t finish anything. I have these really organized fantasies, but I’m not a wordsmith. I just lost my hard drive, which means I lost everything I’ve written for the last twenty years. I should be beside myself, but I’m not, because none of the pieces were really finished

       11)   What have you written?

“I actually wrote a historical fiction novel when I was in high school. I had a         fascination for Hannibal, so I put myself on the other side facing Hannibal’s army. I didn’t really know how to handle it, but I did write it.”

        12)   How had you shared your writings in the past?

“I posted them. When I was working on my trilogy, someone would send me an e-mail that said, “Send me your story,” and I’d send them a few chapters. Then I’d get another email saying, ‘That was great. Send me some more.’ So, a lot of it was praise-driven. The problem is that twenty years have passed. The protagonist has become darker and the eroticism is no longer interesting, I hate to admit. In my mind, I’ve reduced the second book to a single, short story. Also, every novel I’ve written was also an idea for a game. I had done a really good job of writing the games, again not finished. The smallest details completely derail a project for me.

13)    How do you overcome writer’s block?

“The truth is I don’t. My writing block is fear. By the time I do write, it’s only because the ideas have been spilling out over and over and over again through my mind, to where it’s enough already. The details have become an irritant, so I just sit down and write.”

14) What motivates you to compose a limerick?

   “I get ticked off, and my mind starts putting lines together. It’s different with limericks because I don’t have to actually write them. A limerick is not fine art. Because of its structure, a kindergartener is just as good as composing limericks as an adult.”

          15)  Why is legacy important to you?

“I think it’s fascinating to me in the same way history is. Think of Sue, the Tyrannosaurus Rex, which lived approximately 25 million years ago and compare that to the 6,000 years of civilization. In the eyes of God, dinosaurs must be a statement of survivability. Humanity is still an experiment in its infancy. When all is said and done, the history of humans is going to be a lot more significant than the bones of a creature, but we’re not there yet. We’re gong to have to start with many things, including being a lot older than 6,000 years. Maybe there won’t be an Ed Calkins parade that 6,000 years old, but maybe there will a 1,000 years old Ed Calkins Day parade, which will create the much larger tradition of there still being parades.”

16) How did the idea for Ed Calkins day parade originate?

“I discovered that my birthday and Valentines Day had a little conflict when I started dating my wife. The first year I was dating her, we went out and celebrated my February 13th birthday. Guess what happened on the fourteenth?  I didn’t have Valentine for her. That offended her at the time. My defense was, ‘Come on, it was my birthday.’ I guess where started. Then I started joking with other people that my birthday should be a national holiday. When you couple that with Lincoln’s birthday and the stars aligned in the sky, you can see it was meant to be.”

17)  You’re famous for cookouts, Queen of Christmas contests, candy canes and Santa hat distribution and palette jack races. Why host these things?

“Have fun, of course. Distribution centers can be so dreary. If everyday is like the last, no one wants to get up.

18)   Do you own a kilt?

“I used to, but I gave it away to my brother. It no longer fit, at the waistline. So, currently, I do not have a kilt. They’re not cheap. They can cost a couple hundred dollars.”

19)  For what occasions did you wear it?

“Initially I wore it St. Paddy’s day. I wore it the whole day. I was I in newspapers and, yeah, I went to work with it. My wife wouldn’t let me do it after I married her. It happened this way. I have a way of not taking care of garments. When I was starting to date her, most of my jeans had holes in them. She takes care of her possessions. That how I knew we were serious when she started washing my clothes. But when a woman starts washing your clothes, she gets to say what get discarded and what gets kept. You know my striped shirts? Those were her idea. My wife now dresses me. I used to dress differently.

20)  What are your plans for this blog?

“I’d like make some myths of my own, but that won’t start until the book comes out. I’m thinking it might be fun to add different side stories of the character into the blog, but maybe, too, I might be able to introduce some of the traditional Irish myths. I’ve been wanting write something about the interplay of state fairs in Ireland. There were laws concerning them, such as you couldn’t arrest anyone during a fair and you could not engage in war. All combat had to be resolved before a fair was scheduled to start. I’d also like to write about the Knights of the Red Branch and maybe some adventure that happens to some of the knights. That’s the neat thing about a blog. Speaking from the character, if something doesn’t fit, or if there is something else I want to say, I can always come back with, ‘I was just joking. Here’s what really happened.’ I’m very excited about this. I feel I’m getting closer to that three-day holiday.”

Friday, August 7, 2015

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Aug. 2 through Aug. 7

A long-short week of keeping pace and trying to get ahead for the week I'll be in Raleigh hanging out with BryonySeries web administrator emeritus Sarah Stegall. So cannot wait!!!!

Okay, back to business.

You can check out the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at the link below.

Also at the link are the community feature briefs I write/edit (no byline). The fourth calendar, Gotta Do It, runs each Sunday and often stays on the home page through the week.

Below, the stories:

Joliet octogenarian cycles, skis and does overseas mission work with Morris-based group

This lady is amazing! And check out the cool photo!

An Extraordinary Life: Plainfield woman and Harrah's Joliet employee spread joy on and off the job

Showmanship as a way of making people happy was in her blood, a desire to help remained even in her last days.

Support group at Timbers of Shorewood provides encouragement, resources
By Jeanne Millsap
With video extra

The biggest challenge with caregiving is often for the caregiver to learn how to care for himself. This weekly group helps to facilitate that.

Frankfort woman hosts two orphans from the Ukraine for the summer

She thought it would be a combo of foster care of foreign exchange, both familiar to her. She was wrong. Had a video extra, but the restaurant was too dark, and the boys became too shy. Too bad, too, because they were cute!

Suspense novelist to visit Plainfield library

And not just any suspense novelist. Her latest novel was featured in the August edition of People Magazine, and she is a Plainfield resident.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: Touch Somoeone's Life

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Touch Someone's Life

I’ve made some new friends during the course of writing Bryony, but never fully realized the level some of those friendships have reached until a couple of weeks ago, when a rather unusual “get well” card arrived in the mail for me.

The words contained therein are irrelevant. What mattered to me was the love behind the gift. A few months ago, my fifteen year old son Daniel remarked that Bryony has brought the family together, since everyone appears to have enjoyed and are united for it. Those ties, it appears, are not limited to blood (yes, pun intended).

I’m humbled that, by going about my business in my bumbling way, I’ve brightened someone’s life enough that someone wanted to brighten it back. Whatever you’re called to do, please do it with all your might and to the best of your abilities. It just might be the vehicle for connecting with another human being.

Denise M. Baran-Unland

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Writing Sexual Tension

When I first started writing Bryony, I read a post about how editors often cringe at sex scenes beause so many of them are so badly written. 

For many writers, writing romantic/sexual tension is difficult for two reasons: we're embarrassed, and we focus on "the deed."

However, despite the many variations one can find in books and online, "the deed" is still fairly universal and straightforward, despite the temptation to purple-prose it up with really awful mataphors. However, the thoughts, feelings, responses, and value judgments of the characters involved, well, these are as indivudual as the characters.

Building good tension takes time, more than even the excerpts here, but these are offered merely to get your creative juices flowing (cliche, pun intended). Elements of that tension may include past frustration, longing, anticipation, and knowing your audience. The particular details of tension in a young adult book is different from one that is triple x, but the foundational feelings are the same.

John wrapped his arms around Melissa, and all her trepidation melted. He felt so strong, so solid, so protecting. Was this magical moment part of his covenant to her? It was beyond her wildest dreams. How could she ever have mistrusted him? She looked up at John and saw he waited for her answer. Why would a man this talented and wonderful look at her in that way? His face moved closer to hers, and his lips were very near. ("Bryony," Chapter 12: A Fair Trade)

John admitted he had not, but his tone was flat, and Melissa wondered if he had really heard her. The more Melissa talked, the less John heeded her words. Several times, John’s eyes drifted away from Melissa’s face and roamed the rest of her in a manner that caught her breath and halted her speech. His smiles grew less bright and more distracted. Finally, Melissa’s voice trailed into nothingness. John brought forth his watch, noted the time, and repacked the remains. Melissa bit her lip, but what could she do?

Instead of lugging the basket to the boat, John pushed it to the edge of the blanket. With a brief stretch, John lay down, looked at Melissa, and patted a spot on the blanket next to him. His face appeared tranquil, but his eyes held a yearning, almost hungry, look that nearly smothered her. This was it. She couldn’t refuse him now.

Fairly bursting with happiness, Melissa inched away from her place on the blanket and lay next to him. John covered her hand with his, but he did not speak or glance at her. Neither one moved, but every so often, John’s fingertips caressed her skin. They lay there in silence, watching the shadows of the trees lengthen, and the sun dip lower in the sky, exploding into vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges. Gradually, night settled over Lake Munson, and the brilliant colors darkened into purples and blues, but still Melissa felt no urge to leave for Simons Mansion. She only wished this moment would last forever because, although John still did not talk, neither did he release her hand. Feeling more serene than she had in a long time, Melissa closed her eyes and allowed the approaching night to wrap her into its comforting cocoon. She was afraid to respond; she was unwilling to break its magic. Instead, Melissa listened to the lake dashing itself against the shore. She heard the distant call of an unknown bird. John’s breathing sounded steady and rhythmical. She wondered if he had fallen asleep.

Without warning, John’s fingers traveled up her arm, past her shoulder, and to her neck. They stopped at the base of her throat and rested there, warm, unmoving. Melissa melted into his touch, unable to tell where she began, and his fingers ended. ("Bryony," Chapter 24: It's No Use)

Head held high, Melissa strutted out the door and toward the stairs. However, as she drew close to the security entrance, Melissa’s legs began shaking so hard, she curled her toes to keep from buckling. She stumbled to the door with as much dignity as she could muster and willed her chattering teeth to be still. The security guard, an upperclassman with several textbooks spread out before him, didn’t notice Melissa’s distress. Melissa glanced at her watch. Ten minutes to go. She leaned against the wall and ordered her racing heart to behave. Tonight, Melissa would have no rehearsed Bryony script to guide her. What would she say? How should she act? She checked her watch again. Nine minutes to go! She half-expected to see Henry in a three-piece midnight blue suit stroll through the door, apologize for the professor’s tardiness, and then announce he was the substitute date for the night. Oh, what was taking Johnny so long? ("Visage," Chapter 4: Outdated)

Suppressing a sigh, Melissa reached for the door handle, but John, with a quick dart of his eyes, leaned his hand across the back of her seat and locked the door. Melissa held her breath, but the pounding in her ears was deafening. Melissa closed her eyes, and time stopped.
She heard a click, then a creak, and her eyes flew open. John had unlocked Melissa’s door and was now offering his hand. John grew blurry against tears of disappointment. Do not cry, Melissa told herself.
“Thanks,” she mumbled, forcing a cheerful smile while taking his hand, reveling in the warmth of his fingers and trying to act unruffled by the contact. She failed.
“Say ‘hello’ when you pass me.”
“Will do.”
Melissa paused. Again, nothing happened. As she started toward the cafeteria door, John gently caught her wrist. She stopped. Heart racing, she turned to look at him. He slowly moved his eyes along her face and farther down, then back up again. It was how John had looked at her the night of orientation; it was the way he had gazed at Bryony when he lifted her veil. Melissa could not breathe.
("Visage," Chapter 4: Outdated)

All day Monday, Melissa harnessed her will power and focused unwaveringly on her schoolwork. That night at closing time, as Melissa checked out a stack of books, Johnny Simotes walked through the front door. Melissa immediately dropped to the floor and pretended to search for something on the bottom shelf.
She counted to ten, stood up, and breathed a sigh of relief. The professor was gone. The student at the counter looked aghast at her queer behavior, grabbed his books, and nearly sprinted out the door.
Pat something, a tall, friendly girl with short brown layered hair, arranged books on a nearby cart for shelving. As she slid a stack off the counter to give to Pat, Melissa caught sight of Johnny walking to the desk with two books in his hand. Melissa spun around and quickly joined Pat.
“Um, I’ll handle these,” Melissa said in a low voice. “Why don’t you wait on him? You’ve been stuck doing this all night.”
Pat shrugged. “It doesn’t matter to me.” But she approached the professor just the same.
Melissa turned her back to counter and very slowly added her books to the cart. Johnny said something in tones so muted, Melissa only heard the sound of his voice.
“She’s busy at the moment,” Pat said.
“I’ll wait.”
Pat returned to the cart. “He’s asking for you.”
Melissa’s face burned. She glanced up. Mr. Schmidt was observing the exchange and frowning. He preached, and monitored for, sterling customer service, especially when the customer was a teacher. Melissa felt stuck. She had no option but to face the professor. Great.
She returned to the front desk, gave Johnny a polite, “Good evening,” and rapidly stamped his cards. Melissa noticed both books pertained to advanced music theory.
As Melissa slid a due date slip into the front pocket of the second book, Johnny placed his hand on hers. A flushing warmth flowed through her at his touch. All thought froze; every heartbeat hammered out a single syllable, John. Melissa forgot about Mr. Schmidt, Pat, the cartful of books, and her promises to forsake the Bryony fantasies. Nothing else mattered. John had made contact with her.
("Visage," Chapter 3: In The Shadow of Bryony)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Bought a Swimsuit on Saturday

THAT'S the title of a blog post? Yep.

You see, the last time I went swimming was August 1995, at Round Pound, in the Catskills, where my uncle owns a remote sportsman club with less than a dozen cabins. I was nearly seven months pregnant with Daniel, my sixth and last child. The swimsuit was a size 12, a beautiful blue, and I had bought it in April for a bowling tournament in Warren, Ohio. (We had stayed at a hotel with a pool).

Somewhere, in our still-packed photo albums, there are pictures of me in Round Pond holding Rebekah. I was in the water, but not swimming (because I had the 19-month-old Rebekah. Why would no one watch her so I could swim for a few moments? Because that's not how my family operates. Rebekah was my responsibilty, and one I wanted, so it was all good).

So to (finally) have the opportunity to be in and around water? I'm excited!

I have always equated summer with water and water fun. To me, summer isn't summer without two elements, and water is one of them. Growing up, everything was pools and beaches. We even had a backyard pool. One summer when I was 15, we awakened to find the pool and collapsed. Our cousins from New York were coming in the following week. My parents bought and installed another pool.

Now my mother never used the pool, and eventually, my father and I also stopped using it. When my sister left home (and I was long gone), my parents got rid of the pool.

But I married a man in 1981 that I learned, to my dismay, on our honeymoon that he was afraid of water. So water and the related activities ceased to be a part of my life. I focused on things we could do as a family, except he wasn't fond of family activities.

Fast-forward to 2000, when I married a wonderful man who was a terrific stepfather to my children and loved famiy activities. Turns out, though, he was afraid of water. So I focused on things we could do as a family.

The only time we did pool things was when we hosted youth retreats. He'd sit and watch (and he was cool with that), and I could finally, SWIM!

I thought.

I had owned two suits - the one that fit me, and the size 12 from my final pregnancy days. I always brought both, for invariably, a couple of the girls would forget to pack suits, and I'd give mine up.

Both of them.

Consequently, Denise never swam on those outings. Oh, and on the last trip, the suits never came back with me as the girls forgot to return them, and I forgot to remind them.

Around 2003 or so, one of my goddaughters began inviting us to her house for swimming. But tedious hardworker that I am, I sat in the car on my cell phone, conducting interviews, catching up on phone calls, scheduling appointments. I not only never actually swam, I never really saw exactly what that swimming pool looked like. About that time, I had also developed a sun allergy and the hives that had become chronic, so I was less than keen on jumping into a pool under a hot afternoon sun.

Besides, as a freelancer, if I didn't work, I didn't get paid. I had kids (lots of them). I had a mortgage. I worked, seven days a week. In fact, it was only toward the last year or so that I actually took an occasional Saturday off, and then finally, all of Sunday.

I was tired, physically and mentally.

When we moved into the apartment complex over a year ago, one of the draws was the swimming pool. Of course, we were still recovering financially, and had trepidation we could actually afford to live independently again.

Several months after we moved in, the college where my three youngest work always closes for several weeks, so they had no money coming in. Yes, we got through it, but it also meant no money for swim suits. Long hours at work also meant no time (or energy) to swim. Plus, posted pool hours meant either swimming in the heat of day (hives) or when the pool was full (and fuller) capacity.

Um, no.

This spring, I contacted the property manager who gave me permission to use the pool early in the morning. Lack of transportation, time and extra money put buying a swim suit waaaaay down at the bottom of my priorities. I'd walk past the empty pool early in the day with my Saturday morning coffee, year, maybe?

Then my oldest daughter Sarah Stegall surprised me with a plane ticket to Raleigh (Rebekah saved money for her own). This is extremely generous because Sarah has been working mega overtime in order to save money for when she is off work in late September for surgery - and she recently was off work in July for her son's surgery.

Raleigh means swimming, boating, swimming. Sarah has had her go-arounds with ER visits due to hives, so keeping me safe is a given.

I am soooooooooooooooooo excited!

So on Saturday morning, instead of fiction-writing, Rebekah and I went to buy swim suits. In fact, Rebekah stressed now is the time, as suits are on sale...and rapidly disappearing from sight due to fall clothing replacing them.

I have not tried on a swim suit in 20 years. I have not even looked at or touched one. I wasn't bitter during this time, nothing like that. It simply fell off my radar, one of those things I used to like to do and don't think about anymore because I can't do it - like eating peanut butter because I'm now allergic to it.

All my suits since I had my oldest in 1982 were one-piece, and I am not a fan of one-piece suits. But at the time, it was bikini or one-piece. With a botched C/scar (and many more in various locations to follow, too many docs seeking to make their marks, I guess), one hates to scare other bathers with a bikini. So one-pieces it was.

Well, two-pieces have changed in the last 20 years.

Rebekah and I perused the racks, selected several (ones and twos) and went off to try them on. I liked a certain one-piece a lot, and a certain two-piece better.

I am now the thrilled owner of a two-piece suit. I can't wait to officially use it.